The Axeman Cometh!
It seems like everyone wants to tell me what “the greatest threat to Christianity in America is today.” The answers are pretty predictable, depending on who I am talking with:
- Biden democrats
- Trump republicans
- White supremacy
- Systemic inequality
- Christian nationalism
- Christian syncretism
- Working with Covid19 restrictions on gatherings
- Ignoring Covid19 restrictions on gatherings
- People who don’t know the truth
- People who don’t live out grace
There are some dangerous things on this list, but (in my opinion) none of them rise to the level of “greatest threat to the American church” status. Not even close.
You want to know what I think? (I love writing this, because you can’t say no).
The greatest threat to the church in America is the same threat that has dogged God’s people from the beginning:
The greatest threat to the American Church is the persistent and seductive temptation to place our καυχάομαι (our kahowmai – our boast, joy, and glory) in the glory of the kingdom of man instead of the glory of God. The greatest threat to the church is the temptation to try to gain the blessings of the fullness of life (which only come from God) through the power of man (which always results in rebellion against God).
In other words, the greatest threat to the church is worldliness.
Worldliness can look secular or religious, licentious or moral, progressive or conservative – worldliness doesn’t care what “skin” it wears or what party it joins. It’s primary impulse is to find the fullness of God’s blessing apart from helpless, humble, and utterly joyful dependence on God. It’s true, deceptive desire is to make us little gods.
And when it works through a religious structure, it will oppose the true mission of God in the name of God. It will take on the form of godliness but deny the power thereof. It will promise the rain clouds of God’s blessing even as its followers are dying of thirst.
This is the church’s greatest threat, and our greatest protection is what it has always been: God’s grace received and lived out in humble faith. In other words, the gospel.
We need to get serious about anchoring our boast / joy / glory (our kahowmai) in hope of the glory of God and rejecting the false hope promised by the glory of man.
That’s where we’re going this Sunday. So, buckle up, butter cup. We’re going to take the axe of God’s grace to the base of some American idols. Let’s have some fun and tear down some high places in our hearts.
If this sounds threatening, please don’t worry – the axe isn’t coming for you. It’s coming to free you from the fear, resentment, and pride that would lock you up far from God’s blessings in grace. It is coming to liberate you from fear and resentment and into joy and freedom.
I need this. I think maybe some of you do too.
And, if you are inclined, I’ll take some prayer as I study and write this week. I want to be as careful as I am clear. I want to call us to grace without clumsiness or my own sinful impulses getting in the way. I want to be not only the lead pastor, but the lead repenter of our community, so that we can boldly tear down our idols without feeling like we are tearing down ourselves.
So, pray for me as I pray for you and prepare to call us live this stuff out for real.